Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

New print exhbit in the Hood Museum is one of its best

In an oustanding showcase of artistic talent and technical expertise, 110 of some of the finest European prints ever made are on display at the Hood Museum of Art until December 20 in its current exhibit "A Gift to the College: The Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Weil Jr. Collection of Master Prints."

Made possible by what may be the most significant donation to the Hood Museum of Art in its history, the multicentennial exibit features work by master printmakers that include Rembrandt van Rijn, Albrecht Durer, Francisco Goya and Lucas van Leyden among others.

The exhibit highlights 30 spectacular Rembrandts and 15 masterful Durer prints. The 17th Century Rembrants include prints of such renowned etchings and drypoints as "Faust," "Abraham's Sacrifice," "Three Trees" and "Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves," in which the artist known primarily for his work with paint displays an often-underplayed skill in printmaking.

The psychological moment captured in "Abraham's Sacrifice" is a good example of Rembrandt's extraordinary insight, as Abraham's confusion and anguish infect the composition with a powerful morbidity.

Durer's presence is heavily felt as well with prints of the highly regarded 12 woodcut series "The Large Passion" and a print of the fascinatingly intricate engraving "St. Jerome in his Study."

Each of the 12 prints of Durer's "The Large Passion" is displayed alongside the corresponding passion prints of Dutch printmaker Lucas van Leyden, who used Durer's early 16th century compositions as models for his own 1521 engraving series "The Passion of Christ."

The juxtaposition gives artistic, historical and technical perspective to two very impressive sets of prints, and the interplay heightens the effect of both.

Also impressive are the mid-18th century etchings of Italian Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto. Canaletto produced a series of "vetute," or views, of Venice that skillfully combine the contemporary with the Classical to portray a romantic and endearing Venetian world.

Overall, the exhibit is as much a lesson in printmaking technique as it is a tour of artistic vision. With Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century, European artists began exploring a new medium that allowed multiple reproductions of their work.

There are excellent examples of relief woodcuts, copper engravings and drypoints, and acid-enabled etchings.

Timothy Rub, Director of the Hood Museum of Art, said he hopes the exhibit will give students "the opportunity to fall in love with things and learn about things they didn't know about before."

Calling the Weil gift "truly a collection-shaping kind of donation," Rub made clear the long-term effects he thinks the new acquisition will have on Dartmouth.

"If you have a great collection, and you continue to strengthen it though acquisitions of great works of art, the potential for really engaging students and faculty more broadly and in greater depth is going to be enhanced dramatically," Rub said.

The exhibit also includes a room devoted almost entirely to prints of war scenes made by Spain's Francisco Goya and Frenchman Jaques Callot. Callot depicts gruesome scenes from the 30 Years War with an almost eerie aloofness while Goya delves into the full brutality of Napoleon's Spanish invasion.

The overall effect is slight overkill, however, as the power of each series is somewhat dulled by the neighboring presence of the other. Nonetheless, the two series are interesting in their contrasting methods in the portrayal of war.

The Hood Museum does not disclose estimates of the value of its art, but a survey of recent sale prices indicates that the collection is probably worth well over $2 million. Four of the most prominent pieces, Canaletto's "The Portico with the Lantern" and Rembrandt's "Faust," "Three Trees" and "Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves," are together likely worth nearly $500,000.

T. Barton Thurber, the Hood's newly arrived curator of European art, said, "This was already a wonderful collection. Now its a spectacular one."

According to Thurber, the delicate nature of prints means that they can only be displayed for two three-month periods before lighting takes its toll. Much of the collection will still be available for curricular use after the exhibit, however, and plans for art exchange programs with other institutions are also in the works.

If, as Rub suggested, "great museums are really about great collections," the Hood is well on its way to becoming a great museum.